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Writing in the Margins: Lola Baltzell, Carol Blackwell, Amy Solomon and Valerie Spain

April 29 – May 17, 2019

Reception: Thursday, May 9, 6:00 – 8:00 pm

Gallery Series workshop: Saturday, May 11, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm

Avid readers will feel right at home in “Writing in the Margins.” The upcoming Chandler Gallery show, which features mixed media artists Lola Baltzell, Carol Blackwell, Amy Solomon and Valerie Spain, is just as much of a celebration of how readers consume as it is of text and books themselves.

Baltzell explained that the title came from a song by John Gorka, whom she cited as her favorite singer/songwriter for his “evocative” and often ambiguous lyrics. For that reason, the show is aptly named. There is openness in “Writing in the Margins” and room for the viewer to insert themselves into anything abstract, just as readers might.

Despite visible differences between each piece, Baltzell noted how they share “many commonalities,” particularly in how “the pieces are worked and re-worked in many layers.”

In Spain’s “House of Nails,” for example, she layers a flattened “Grip-Rite Nails” box over indistinguishable handwritten words. After a closer look, the bright blue outline around the box more visibly suggests its house-like shape. Baltzell’s “Jigsaw Collage” similarly places disparate chunks of text and imagery over each other, garnished with three painted green circles. The words “JIGSAW” line the bottom while a clock with handwritten numbers peeks out on top. Blackwell’s “Vocabulary Building” stacks blocks of letters and words in a sort of three- dimensional collage, playing on words by literally building with vocabulary.

Individually, each piece is strikingly unique, like Solomon’s “Tea Cup and Wallpaper,” which gives the illusion that a teacup is melting into its background. When placed side by side, it’s impossible to ignore what links them. In many cases, wordplay and handwriting are a uniting motif. Baltzell explained that this comes from a “nostalgia for the way that readers interacted with books for generations,” which includes dog-earing and writing notes.

“On the one hand, [handwriting] can feel archaic and not modern, and yet there is energy and passion and character in it that is otherwise not expressed,” she said.

“Writing in the Margins” is on display at the Chandler Gallery from April 29-May 17. The opening reception will be held on Thursday, May 9 from 6-8pm. The Chandler Gallery is a program under the umbrella of the Agassiz Baldwin Community, a private, non-profit organization that has provided quality programs and services in the Cambridge community for over 40 years. Agassiz Baldwin Community also manages Maud Morgan Arts, a full arts program of classes and workshops for all ages. Maud Morgan Arts works to reflect the diversity of talents of the community, bringing people together to make art, share art, and support visual arts education.